This topic has been discussed many times in the past. Come to think of it, this topic never seems to fade from the spotlight when discussing Microsoft and Sony’s mammoth console machines, the Xbox 360 and PS3. What’s interesting about this topic is that a lot of people were quick to side in the way of the PlayStation 3 when it was first released as being “future proof”. The Xbox 360's multi-use of a standard DVD player with the option of attaching an external HD-DVD made it look like it was outdated before it was properly out of the gate. However, during these crucial times of the format wars (and the economy) Microsoft may have played it safe for future-proofing the Xbox 360 more than a lot of people think.
While the Sony PlayStation 3 may contain everything needed to spearhead the future of technological gaming on a home console, Microsoft has done something that may pay off in the long run: they kept it simple. The 360 comes in various forms, some with more or less gadgetry for the gamer who likes choice (or happens to be budget conscious). The PS3 also comes in two different iterations that have seen major upgrades within the last year of its release. On both sides there’s some major horsepower when it comes to processing, memory management and online functionality (for better or for worse *cough*PSN*cough*) And Sony ran a brazen risk with the inclusion of a Blu-Ray player in their PS3, which thankfully has paid off for them both on the gaming front and the multimedia front.
However, while both consoles seem ready for another five years of serviceable gaming and multimedia functionality, there’s the major question of how effective certain aspects of the hardware (in both consoles) will play out in the long run. For instance, the Xbox 360 is already receiving major heat for disc space limitations, while the PS3 is still suffering from framerate issues due to the lack of proper processing utilization. Now on the upside of this issue the PS3 will supposedly have better use made of its multiple SPUs in the next couple of years. The only problem is that around that time Microsoft will more than likely start getting ready to unveil their new console. Nevertheless, the very fact that within the next five years we will start seeing true potential from the PS3 does generalize it as hardware made for the future. It’s also hardware designed for gamers who are patient enough to wait for the real goodies in the years to come.
Sadly, the above description does not carry over quite as well for the Xbox 360 and its storage capacity, which is its main problem at the moment. Perhaps, though, that was the point all along.
While Microsoft abandoned a built-in HD-DVD and hard-disk from the outset for the 360, these accessories have become widely available as choice add-ons. In essence, this opens up a wide variety of options for Microsoft’s console, in spite of the fact that customers will have to upgrade their console to keep up with the times. There’s also Xbox Live, which plays a heavy part in custom content, and it easily works as a substitute for content that might otherwise get left on the cutting room floor. In a way Microsoft has cemented a future proof status within the Xbox 360's wide array of open-ended functionality. Giving consumers the option to add or take away as many hard-disks or attachable disk-drives gives MS the unique ability to possibly upgrade to Blu-Ray – or any other format of their choosing – via an external drive. Keep in mind, this can all be done without driving up the initial cost of the 360. On the downside this really does make Microsoft’s console look a lot like a maintenance-prone PC.
Although, as a gamer it’s probably disheartening to know that a console would require upgrading. At the same time, however, it’s probably also a little more comforting to know that the console will be around a little longer than expected. While the original Xbox was more future proofed than the PS2 by a long-shot, it was quickly abandoned by MS due to the cost of producing the unit with an included hard-drive. This is not to say that an optional hard-drive would have spared the original big black box from its early grave, but it appears to be working wonders for the Xbox 360.
I guess if you’re really concerned about buying a console that’s future-proof (or whether you bought a console and wonder if it is future proof), you might want consider two things: How long are you willing to wait for multiple good games to come out for it? And how much money are you willing to shell out over the course of the next couple of years to keep it updated? I guess the only real winners in this debate are those who are happy enough with consoles that are too old to be considered future proof.